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Photo courtesy of UMass Public Policy / Twitter

UMass Sexual Assault Highlights Problems with Fraternities

On September 19, hundreds of University of Massachusetts Amherst students gathered in front of the Theta Chi Fraternity house to protest recent allegations of sexual assault against the fraternity. Two students were arrested during the protest, but the school administration has yet to take any action to hold the fraternity accountable, which is consistent with the current culture around fraternities that universities today uphold. This incident is just one of many that call into question whether Greek life should be abolished as a whole.

The allegations, which first appeared on the anonymous social media platform Yik Yak, were not the first time Theta Chi was under fire for unacceptable behavior. This past spring, the fraternity was threatened with suspension for violating Covid-19 protocols with a large party. For UMass students, Theta Chi’s clear apathy of university policies has pushed them to speak out. 

Theta Chi’s response to the sexual assault allegations adds supports the notion that the fraternity has little empathy for the damage caused by their members. Fraternity president, Benjamin Rozak, posted an arrangement of Snapchat stories recording a party held by the fraternity in response to the accusations. On Sunday night, after a protest, one story pictured people dancing to music with the caption “allegations,” while another showed damage done to the house from the protest earlier while Rozak commented “Sweet.” This obvious demonstration of apathy came to fruition just as the Theta Chi chapter called on the university’s chancellor to protect the brothers. 

Unsurprisingly, the administration’s response to these allegations has been lackluster. Amherst’s Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy released an email to Amherst’s student body on the evening of September 20 addressing the controversy.

“We condemn sexual violence of any kind and are committed to providing robust support services to survivors and to vigorously investigating all allegations of sexual assault,” Subbaswamy said.

However, the administration refuses to take any action on the fraternity until real evidence of the most recent assault is shown. Although additional proof is needed to validate the allegations posted on Yik Yak, Theta Chi’s past actions should indicate that disciplinary measures should be taken in order to hold the apathetic members accountable. 

As these events occur, students across UMass’ campus and the nation are beginning to question fraternity culture. As of October 19th, over 30,000 people have signed a petition calling for the suspension of Theta Chi at UMass. The outward support of this movement brings attention to the greater problem of sexual assault at colleges across the U.S.  According to the Office on Women’s Health, roughly 2.2 million women enrolled in college in the U.S. are sexually assaulted every year. However, barely 20% of these women end up actually reporting these incidences.  At every university with access to Greek life, deciding where to go on the weekend often involves statements like “But that’s the rape frat” or “Remember to cover your drinks.” Many of these fraternities get their reputations from the inaction by the university, consequently. At Wesleyan University, for example,  an anonymous alumna sued the school for not addressing her report of sexual assault from a frat she called a “rape factory”. Overall, about 9% of female student victims didn’t report incidences of sexual assault because they feared the police would do nothing to help the situation, according to RAINN statistics. It is almost always treated as the woman’s responsibility to protect herself, while fraternity brothers face almost no repercussions for their actions. 

This year alone there have been countless reports of sexual assault on campuses such as Northwestern, Iowa, Nebraska, and Eastern Michigan, where fraternities are popular. It’s not just UMass Amherst that is facing this problem, and it’s not just becoming a problem. To create a safer space for all, there needs to be stricter disciplinary measures and open avenues for reporting sexual assault on college campuses across the nation.

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